Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sermon: Wednesday of Invocabit (Lent 1) and Baptism of Karmen and Bryton Powell

24 February 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 1:9-15 (Gen 22:1-18, Jas 1:12-18)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

“And when He came up out of the water, immediately He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son; with You I am well-pleased.’”

Our Lord Jesus, the very source of grace and favor found grace and favor with His Father in Holy Baptism. As is always the case in the Most Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are always working in a mysterious and wondrous perfect communion to restore, renew, and revitalize our fallen creation.

God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Triune God who shares one name, the singular name into which we baptize, does this out of love for His creatures, a

Love how deep, how broad, how high,
Beyond all thought and fantasy,
That God, the Son of God should take
Our mortal form for mortals’ sake.
For us baptized…

And in following our Lord to the holy waters of baptism, this declaration of the God being pleased, of being the Lord’s Beloved, and even being His Son falls upon us as well.

Today is a great day in the history of the Christian Church. For here in this holy place, at this holy font, two of God’s creatures were irrefutably given a second birth in a holy bath. Mother Karmen and son Bryton have joined the millions of followers of Jesus Christ into the water, into the full communion of the Holy Trinity, into full fellowship with the Church, and into the fullness of eternity – in a way that can never be taken away from them or called into doubt. The Holy Spirit has descended upon them, and the favor of the Father is given to them as a free gift, as free as the water that poured on their heads, and as free as the first breath of air they drew as baptized children of God.

And what’s more, Karmen’s first act as one born of water and the Spirit was to offer her own beloved son for Holy Baptism. Like Abraham before her, Karmen does not know where obedience to the Lord’s command and reception of the gift of grace will lead her or her son. She has taken a leap of faith.

Abraham was given an order to sacrifice his son, his only begotten and beloved son. It was a shocking command, especially given the True God’s revulsion at the pagan religions that engaged in child sacrifice. As our Lord once told us, the Lord is not the God of the dead, but of the living. He has come to bring us life, and abundantly so. But one day in the 21st century BC, God commanded the most difficult order any parent could ever obey. For what father or mother would not rather sacrifice himself or herself a thousand times rather than slay his or her own child?

And yet, this is what God told Abraham to do.

And after leaving us a vivid picture of climbing a hill, of wood on the son’s back, of binding him to the altar, and of the moment when the heartbroken and yet faithful Abraham obeyed, of the instruments of execution, of an intervening angel, and of the triumph of life over death, as well as the image of the sacrificial ram caught with his head in thorns in response to Abraham’s act of faith in saying: “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” – we see God praising Abraham for not withholding his only son from God.

Two millennia later, the very same God would Himself provide the true Lamb, His only begotten and beloved Son, as the one all-availing sacrifice for us poor miserable sinners. But unlike the case of Isaac, this sacrifice of our Lord Jesus would not be interrupted. For the Father’s love is equaled by the Son’s, who lays down His life for the sake of His friends and enemies alike.

Today, the sacrifice of the cross, like the water that poured from the Lord’s riven side, was splashed upon Karmen and Bryton. Today they have become without any doubt children of God, heirs, partakers of the Son’s rightful glory, bearers of the free gift of everlasting life.

And yes, like Abraham, Karmen did offer her Son up to death. For St. Paul tells us “We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

And Karmen and Bryton can now confess with us in the words of the Blessed Reformer in our Small Catechism: “the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”

Dear Karmen and Bryton, this new life is lived out one moment at a time, one day at a time, one week at a time, even unto eternity. You are beloved children of the Father. He is pleased in you because He is pleased in His Son who gave Himself for you. The Lord has provided, and He will provide. Satan has yet again been given a blow on this day, and you will forever be able to call to mind the reminders of February 24th, water, the cross, and the promises of the Word of God, and hurl them like javelins into the devil’s mocking face in times of doubt or temptation. We rejoice with you, and we pledge ourselves to you as your brothers and sisters in Christ. We are your family and we trek with you as you walk the way of the cross, in good times and in bad, even unto eternity itself.

For we know “from whence cometh [our] help.” We know the heavens have been torn open, that we are showered by God’s grace like the free rain that pours on us from above. We know that we are the recipients of the forgiveness of sins and of life everlasting.

“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers,” St. James exhorts us. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”

That promise is for all who believe and are baptized. That promise is for us. It is for Karmen and Bryton. It is an ironclad promise, sealed in the blood of the Lamb, and is the fullness of the Lord’s grace, now and unto eternity. Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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